In February of 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded four draft picks, including their first-rounders in 2002 and 2003, to the Oakland Raiders as part of their successful effort to hire Jon Gruden as head coach. As hefty as the price was, the deal quickly looked good when the Buccaneers went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII that season.
Besides, it wasn't that unusual for the Bucs to work around a first-round void in those days. They also traded their first-rounders, in one way or another, in 1998 and 2000. From '98 through '03, the Bucs made only two opening-round selections: Anthony McFarland (1999) and Kenyatta Walker (2001).
Since 2004, however, the Bucs have held on to their first-round picks. In fact, barring another trade, Tampa Bay will soon make a first-round pick for the eighth year in a row, as they are set to choose 20th overall in the 2011 draft in April. Surprisingly, that would mark the longest stretch in team history that the Buccaneers have resisted trading their highest draft pick.
Of course, some of those trades haven't worked out as well as the one swung in 2002. Sending a 1983 first-rounder to Chicago during the second round in 1982 in order to draft Booker Reese…that one springs to mind. Given that Keyshawn Johnson was the leading receiver on the Super Bowl team, sending two first-rounders to the Jets to get him in 2000 is much more defensible. Trades are often bold risks, of course, and that boldness can pay off handsomely (Kellen Winslow) or hurt in the long run (Chris Chandler).
Next week, the annual "Twenty Questions" draft contest will debut on Buccaneers.com. To enter, you'll be asked to predict the answers to 20 queries regarding what will happen during the 2011 draft in April. And here's a little sneak peek on what you can expect among those questions: One of them will be about the likelihood of the Buccaneers trading up or down from either of their first two draft spots (20th and 51st overall).
When considering your answer (should you choose to enter the contest and potentially win 2011 game tickets), you may wish to keep this in mind: Decision-makers Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris have shown no fear of the trade since taking over in January of 2009. In the short time since, the Buccaneers have executed no fewer than 11 trades involving picks in the 2009-11 drafts.
Some of the highlights: 2009 2nd and 6th-rounders to Cleveland for Winslow; a two-spot trade-up in the first round in 2009 to secure quarterback Josh Freeman; and a four-pick jump in the second round in 2010 to nab wide receiver Arrelious Benn. With another pair of trades, Dominik was even able to convert two seventh-round picks in 2010 into promising young defensive end Alex Magee and a sixth-round pick in 2011.
Some of the trades the Buccaneers have made in the last 26 months are still open to evaluation – the last two mentioned above, for instance, will look quite good if Magee proves to be a valuable asset and/or the upcoming sixth-rounder is spent well. But overall, fortune seems to have favored the bold, and one should not be surprised if Dominik and Morris are willing to wheel and deal again during the course of this year's draft.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best trades involving draft picks (as almost all NFL trades do) in franchise history.
A Good Start
Several of the franchise's earliest swaps still rank among their most astute.
Having gotten little of value out of the ill-fated "allocation draft" in 1976, the expansion Buccaneers were very busy on the trade market in their first few seasons. The team's early drafts produced some cornerstone players, such as Lee Roy Selmon, David Lewis and Doug Williams, but the Bucs also used a good number of their picks to acquire some much-needed veterans. In 1977, for instance, the Bucs didn't make a single pick between Charley Hannah in the third and Randy Hedberg in the eighth because they had traded away a fourth, a fifth, two sixths and a seventh for such players as linebacker Ray Nettles and quarterback Gary Huff.
Of course, most Buc fans won't remember Nettles, as he never made the team, and don't really need to remember Huff, who was 2-4 in six career starts for Tampa Bay. On the other hand, most Buc fans will remember Mike Washington, Richard Wood and Cedric Brown. All three became long-term stalwarts on a defense that quickly developed into one of the league's best.
The Buccaneers traded a third-round pick to the Baltimore Colts in 1976 to get cornerback Mike Washington, who would go on to play in exactly 100 games and make 97 starts for the Buccaneers. Washington still ranks fourth on the Bucs' all-time interceptions list, with 28, and when his career ended after the 1984 season he was second on the list, just one behind Cedric Brown.
Speaking of Brown, Tampa Bay made use of a trade involving this defensive back, as well, but probably not in the way you imagine. Brown played briefly for the Bucs in 1976, appearing in just one game, and then Tampa Bay traded him to Oakland the next spring for sixth and ninth-round picks. The team turned that sixth-round pick into the aforementioned Huff and the ninth-rounder into useful wide receiver Larry Mucker, and essentially got all that for free. That's because the Raiders released Brown and the Bucs re-signed him before the 1977 season, and he went on to play in exactly 100 games as well, with 95 starts. He was the Bucs' all-time leader with 29 interceptions before Donnie Abraham and then Ronde Barber came along.
Also in 1976, shortly before the regular-season began, Tampa Bay sent a 1977 seventh-round pick to the Jets to acquire linebacker Richard Wood, who had played only one season in the NFL to that point. Wood, who assumed the nickname "Batman," stepped immediately into a starting role and stayed there a long time, playing in 132 games as a Buccaneer with 89 starts. Brown, Washington and Wood were all starters on the 1979 division-winning Bucs team that featured the NFL's top-rated defense.
Turning the Tables
The little swipe at Chris Chandler above would be understandable to Buc fans who were already cheering the team on in the early '90s. In 1990, Tampa Bay traded its first-round pick in 1992 to Indianapolis to get Chandler, and Buc fans then had to endure two tough seasons of bickering and lineup switching between Chandler and Vinny Testaverde. Meanwhile, that 1992 pick proved to be, well, the second-overall pick. Ouch.
Thus, it was a bit of delayed justice for the Buccaneers when they sent quarterback Craig Erickson to those same Colts five years later. Indy gave up a first-round pick for Erickson, who had played relatively well for the Buccaneers before the drafting of Trent Dilfer numbered his days in Tampa. After the trade, however, Erickson would play in only 15 more NFL games, with just six starts, three of them in Indianapolis. The Bucs turned the extra pick into defensive tackle Marcus Jones, who had several strong seasons as a pass-rusher after switching to defensive end.
The 1994 draft was a pretty good one for the Buccaneers, as it produced Dilfer, Errict Rhett, Pete Pierson and Jim Pyne, all of whom started plenty of games during their Tampa Bay careers. The Bucs' third-round pick that year was a complete whiff, however: LSU tight end Harold Bishop.
Bishop did virtually nothing as a Buccaneer. He played in six games as a rookie in 1994 but did not catch a single pass. Teams certainly expect to get much more than that out of a high third-round pick.
And somehow, the Bucs still did. In a move that seems impossible even today, Tampa Bay enticed the Cleveland Browns to part with a second-round pick in 1996 to trade for Bishop after the 1994 season. Bishop did catch 16 passes for the Browns in 1995, but that was his only year in Cleveland. He also spent one season in Baltimore and one in Pittsburgh, but his final career totals include just 34 games and 19 receptions.
And that second-round pick the Bucs picked up in the deal. That was used to draft Mike Alstott. No further explanation needed.
(It's tempting to add the similar story of Marquise Walker to this section, but there actually was no trade of a draft pick involved. Walker, drafted in third round in 2002 – and the first player selected under Gruden – was a bust, never appearing in a single game as a Buccaneer and spending much of his rookie season on injured reserve. The Bucs salvaged the pick, however, by trading Walker to Arizona for running back Thomas Jones the following summer. However, this is one of those rare deals that was just player-for-player.)
Waiting on Value
It's a deal most general managers in the NFL would make: Trade a second-round pick one year for a first-rounder the next. For instance, the San Francisco 49ers jumped at that deal in 2009 when Carolina was willing to give up its 2010 first-rounder to jump into the second round in 2009 and take defensive end Everette Brown. With two picks in the middle of the first round last April, the 49ers were able to revamp their offensive line in one fell swoop, taking both tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati.
The Buccaneers likewise jumped at the phone every time the San Diego Chargers called in the late '90s. During the 1996 draft, San Diego offered its first-round pick in 1997 for the Bucs' second-rounder, because a receiver they coveted (Brian Still) was still on the board. Wanting to rebuild through the draft in Tony Dungy's early days, the Bucs gladly stockpiled first-rounders, making two opening-round choices in both 1996 and 1997. The pick they got from San Diego in that first deal turned into wide receiver Reidel Anthony. Anthony may not have given the Bucs everything they wanted out of the 16th overall pick, but he did have a few good seasons.
Two years later, the Chargers made virtually the same offer and the Bucs jumped again. First, Tampa Bay traded down out of its low first-round spot and got two extra second-round picks from Oakland. That allowed the Bucs to draft both Brian Kelly and Jacquez Green and still have a third second-round choice to ship off to the Chargers. This time San Diego wanted to grab supersized wide receiver Mikhael Ricks (who would convert to tight end later in his career) out of Stephen F. Austin. The Bucs took San Diego's 2000 first-round pick in the deal and then, as that draft was approaching, packaged that choice with their own first-rounder to pry Keyshawn Johnson away from the Jets. Johnson set a Buccaneer single-season record with 106 catches in 2001 and was a starter on the 2002 Super Bowl team.
The Finest Moment
Perhaps the greatest trade in Buccaneer history – or series of trades, really – occurred on draft weekend in 1995.
Tampa Bay was due to pick seventh in the first round in that draft, and after starting the previous year's draft with Dilfer and Rhett it looked certain that the Bucs would go after the most impactful defenders they could find. The team has probably never met a goal more thoroughly than it did on that day, but it took a lot of phone calls.
Not long after the first round began, the Bucs took a call from the Eagles, who (it is now clear) were eager to grab Combine warrior Mike Mamula, the Boston College defensive end. General Manager Rich McKay agreed to move back five spots and throw in a third-round pick in order to get two second-rounders from Philly. At that spot, the Bucs merely waited their turn and, after Minnesota went for FSU defensive end Derrick Alexander at number 11, grabbed the player they wanted all along: defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Already well ahead of the game, the Bucs then began to wait for their second-round pick, which was slotted fifth in that frame. As the first round progressed, Tampa Bay's brain trust noticed another defensive player they admired, FSU linebacker Derrick Brooks, slipping down the board, perhaps because some teams felt he was a little small. When Brooks was still available late in the round, the Bucs made their own aggressive move, packaging their own second-round pick with one of the two they had just acquired from Philadelphia and trading with the Dallas Cowboys. That put Tampa Bay at #28 in the first round, from where they grabbed Brooks.
And that's how the Bucs turned a first and a third-round pick into two almost sure-fire Hall of Fame defenders in the course of a couple hours in 1995. It's hard to imagine any trades working out better than that.